A new report Increasing awareness of invisible calories from alcohol (PDF) says two-thirds of the public actively support the addition of calorie labels on packaging, with the majority unaware of the calorie content of a pint of lager or glass of wine.
However, the report has been criticised by the trade, saying the move won't work in isolation.
The RSPH is calling for research to strengthen the argument for calorie labelling of alcohol in pubs, as well as in the off-trade and on PoS material, in a bid to tackle rising levels of obesity.
“Everyone should be able to see both the number of units and the number of calories in their drink before purchase, whether in a shop or a pub or restaurant,” the report said.
The body said it conducted an experiment in a pub to find out if displaying calories on drinks menus changed drinking behaviour. Those presented with calorie information each consumed on average 400 calories less than those who were oblivious to the calorie content of their drinks, indicating participants did use calorie information to inform their drink choices.
Watch the experiment
The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers said the licensed hospitality sector was already playing its part in addressing a range of health-related issues and that the link between calories and consumption was far from clear cut when customers eat out.
“The sector has also undertaken a billion-unit pledge to reduce intake and strength of house wine and to promote access to soft drinks. These are all more effective measures to educate consumers about overall alcohol consumption rather than a message related just to calories,” said chief executive Kate Nicholls.
The Portman Group – the responsibility body for drinks producers in the UK – said the industry took all health-related issues regarding alcohol very seriously and actively promoted and funded Drinkaware, which provides calorie information for consumers through apps and on its website.
A voluntary approach in partnership with Government had proved to be faster and more effective than regulation, it added.
A spokeswoman said: “Drinks producers can play a key role in informing and educating consumers and are open to further discussions about calorie information. However, it is essential that alcohol content, not calorie content, should primarily inform consumer decision-making.”
The European Commission is set to make a decision on the issue next month.
Should alcoholic drinks carry calorie labels?